Senior Day for Virginia Tech couldn’t have gone much better, as the No. 15 Hokies easily handled a struggling Miami squad en route to an 84-70 victory inside Cassell Coliseum on Friday night. Tech finished the regular season with a 23-7 overall record, as well as a 12-6 mark in conference play. Miami dropped to 13-17 overall and 5-13 in league play.
For the tenth consecutive game, Justin Robinson was not able to play. However, he did dress for the game and was included in the starting lineup for the opening tip. After Miami won the tip, Miami coach Jim Larranaga called timeout, and Robinson was removed from the game in a pre-planned moment, so he could get a standing ovation from the Tech crowd. It wasn’t exactly the senior moment everybody hoped for from Tech’s veteran point guard, who dropped 35 points on Syracuse in his last real game in Cassell, but he got the sendoff he deserved.
“Robinson has just meant so much, and it’s not just him,” said Buzz Williams, who won his 250th game as a head coach on Friday night. “He has just meant so much to the transformation of our program. I wanted to make sure that we did the best we could, that we honored him and his family, while at the same time not causing too much of a show. It’s not about Five [Robinson], it’s about our program. I thought it was the most respectful thing we could do considering the situation.”
Williams said after the game that Robinson would not play in the ACC Tournament, and it was “going to be close” as to whether or not he’ll be available for the NCAA Tournament.
Fellow seniors Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw had storybook endings to their college careers. Outlaw had 19 points and was 5-of-9 from three-point range, while Hill finished with 17 points and went a perfect 5-of-5 from three-point range. Hill also pulled down five rebounds. Both seniors exited to standing ovations in the final minute of the game.
After going just 8-for-48 (16.6%) from three-point range in the month of February without Justin Robinson, Hill has been a new man as the calendar has turned to March. He is 8-of-11 (72.7%) over his last two games.
“The basketball gods,” a happy Hill joked when asked why his shooting has improved so much over the last two games.
Hill admitted that things got a bit emotional for him before the game as he dressed in the locker room for the final time, but he was able to keep them in check during the game.
“[My emotions] almost got away from me when I went in the locker room, and I kind of figured that was my last time playing here,” Hill said.
The two seniors weren’t the only players with a huge game. Sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who may have also played his last game in Cassell Coliseum, dominated the Hurricanes and nearly recorded a triple double. Alexander-Walker finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He said after the game that he wanted to play as well as possible for Tech’s outgoing seniors.
“It was all about our seniors,” Alexander-Walker said. “All the work that they’ve put in – Med, 5 [Justin Robinson]… I mean, Med has been here from the beginning. He literally built it with his bare hands. Seeing him do that, and J-Rob and Kerry and Ty, everyone is deserving. The fact that I could be there for them was huge.”
“He’s really, really good,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said of Alexander-Walker. “He can handle. He can shoot. He’s got size. He’s got length. He’s got athletic ability. He has layups, floaters, threes and free throws. He’s a guy the NBA guys are drooling over.”
Freshman guard Isaiah Wilkins came off the bench to score 11 points, while Kerry Blackshear had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Miami took an early 16-8 lead immediately following the emotions of the pre-game senior ceremony, but it didn’t last long. Virginia Tech quickly closed the gap, took the lead, and then ran the Hurricanes out of the gym following a 24-3 run that put the Hokies up 32-19. They increased their lead to as many as 21 points before the final buzzer.
It was a good ending to the home careers of Tech’s seniors, who have helped turn the program around since their arrival.
“The lessons that have been learned by all of us in this experience has made us all better,” Buzz Williams said of his seniors. “Because I have never been a part of something like this, I think the wisdom that comes from the experience is I didn’t know to say that when I first met Robinson. I remember the first time I met Robinson and all of them, the things I have said to them have all come true. I was betting on the ‘come true’ in a lot of it, but looking back at it I wish I would have been able to quantify what the experience would do for their life. That’s the coolest thing.”
Virginia Tech will return to action at approximately 2:30pm on Wednesday in the ACC Tournament as the No. 5 seed, where they will face the winner of Tuesday’s game between Miami and Wake Forest, whom the Hokies went 3-0 against in the regular season. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.
Game Notes From Virginia Tech
The Hokies entered the game ranked 15th in the AP poll and 16th in the USA Today Coaches poll.
Tonight was Senior Night. Tech honored seniors Ahmed Hill, Ty Outlaw and Justin Robinson, along with senior manager Francis Duggan. All three players got the start tonight. Robinson came out at the first whistle. He made his first appearance since injuring his left foot at Miami on Jan. 30.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 21 points. It’s the 26th time this season he has scored in double figures and the 10th time he has scored at least 20 points.
Alexander-Walker had a team-high eight assists, tying his career-high.
Alexander-Walker had a career-high 10 rebounds. Along with his 21 points, this marks his first career double-double.
Ahmed Hill scored 17 points. In doing so, he reached the 1,400 career point mark at Virginia Tech. He passed Deron Washington into 20th place in career scoring at Virginia Tech. He now has 1,413 career points.
Ty Outlaw scored 19 points. It is the 11th time this season he has scored in double figures and the third consecutive game.
Isaiah Wilkins scored 11 points, the third time this season he has scored in double figures.
With the win, the Hokies are now 23-7 overall and 12-6 in the ACC. The 23 victories are tied with the 2009-10 season for the most victories in a regular season in school history.
The 12 ACC wins sets a new mark for ACC victories in a season.
With tonight’s win, head coach Buzz Williams recorded his 250th career victory.
Tech sweeps the season series with the Hurricanes. The Hokies are now 16-22 all-time against Miami.
With his eight points tonight, Kerry Blackshear Jr. moves past Marshall Ashford into 44th in career scoring at Virginia Tech. He now has 1,064 career points.